Between the talk of quantum fluctuations and matter-antimatter annihilation engines, Karpf again quickly establishes problems that will seize hold of fans of hard SF. This time, Jack is tasked with investigating the “perturbed” behavior of Kuiper belt objects (ie, asteroids), some seemingly headed in the direction of Earth, thrown out of their regular orbits by Jack’s use, in the previous book, of an advanced alien engine still being experimented on by the crew.
While less epic in scope than its predecessor, Latent Flaw again skillfully blends tense, science-minded storytelling with big ideas, fascinating dilemmas, cosmic mysteries, and bursts of explosive combat. Readers of Prelude to Extinction will rightly suspect that Karpf’s story will blast into unexpected directions, with the likable, capable crew finding bold scientific solutions to seemingly impossible problems—and, again, Karpf persuasively shows the work. The prose is tighter this time, driven by dialogue and action, and the momentum stronger as the story builds to both a satisfying conclusion and an epochal cliffhanger. Readers of serious science fiction will love it, but they’re advised to start with the first book.
Takeaway: This superior hard SF sequel pits a starship crew and alien intelligence against the impossible.
Great for fans of: Greg Bear’s Eon, Jack McDevitt.
Design and typography: B
Marketing copy: B+